Lessons From The Sacrifices

The heart of the Good News is that Messiah Yeshua died for our sins. Dying to atone for sin sounds strange to many people today, including my Jewish people. The Good News would have greater impact if more people understood Temple worship, the sacrifices and the priests who offered them. They might be able to see how they are fulfilled in the Messiah and the New Covenant, which enables us to truly get close to the Three-In-One God of Israel!

Principles That Govern The Sacrifices: The Principle Of Getting Closer To God: “Korbanot” is usually translated as “sacrifices” or “offerings”. Korbanot comes from a Hebrew root which means “to get close”, and indicates the primary purpose of these sacrifices: to get us closer to a holy God from whom the whole world is estranged. Getting close to God only comes through God-appointed sacrifices.

The Principle Of Sacrificial Giving: A korban (singular of korbanot) requires the giving of something valuable: bulls, sheep, goats, lambs, rams, pigeons or grain. To whom much was given, much was required. The rich were to bring their bulls, the middle class were to offer sheep and goats, and the poor could bring birds or grain. The rich and middle class were not to present offerings below their ability to give. They were not to present pigeons. That would have been an affront to God. We are to give God the best, not the least that we can get by with. To have an attitude that asks, “what is the least I can give to God?” reveals a heart that really hasn’t come to know and love the Lord.

A Sacrifice Must Be Perfect: All offerings were to be without defects of any kind. They were to be conformed to God’s holy character. To offer an animal with a defect demonstrated that the person who would do such a thing despised God and their heart was evil. In addition, because the sacrifices point us to Messiah Yeshua, perfection was necessary in the type. Offering a flawless animal was necessary to demonstrate the perfect character and the perfect sacrifice of the fulfillment – Messiah Yeshua, the Ultimate Sacrifice. Imperfect animals could not portray His sacrifice, which was perfect and without any blemish. By obeying God’s instructions, the people would ultimately learn of the beautiful connection between the animal, and the fulfillment in Messiah Yeshua.

The Principles Of Identification and Substitution: The animal being offered was a substitute for the person making the offering. Also, the things done to the offering were things that the worshiper himself deserved. Before the animal was killed, the offerer laid his hands on the head of the sacrifice. This ceremony depicted identification. The offerer became identified with the animal’s innocence, and the animal became identified with the worshiper’s guilt. A kind of transfer took place. Whatever happened to the animal from this point forward should be seen as having actually been experienced by the offerer. Of course, these principles of identification and substitution culminate in the ultimate sacrifice of the Son of God, who becomes our Substitute. We must identify with Him.

The Order Of The Offerings: The Sin Offering was basic to all the other offerings. It was the first sacrifice offered. You dealt with the thing that separated you from God – sin – before you offered the Burnt Offering of dedication or the Grain Offering of sanctified labor, followed by the Peace Offering of fellowship. First, sin must be atoned for. Then comes dedication and service to God, then genuine fellowship and intimacy with God. You cannot truly serve God until you have genuine atonement. You cannot have genuine intimacy and fellowship and closeness with God until your sins are atoned for, and you are serving the Lord.

The Sacrifices Must Be Combined With Faith: Offering the Korbanot by simply going through the motions, without having genuine faith, did not draw a person closer to God. The sacrifices had to be united with genuine faith toward God in the heart of the worshiper. The heart of the offerer needed to be engaged, and God must truly be respected. The Lord was not impressed with those who offered sacrifices, but whose hearts were far from Him (see Isaiah 1:10-14). Those Korbanot accomplished nothing. In a similar way, those who claim to believe in God and Messiah, but merely go through the motions of religious rituals (going to church, etc.) accomplish nothing.

The Chatat: The Sin Offering: Chatah means “to sin”, or “to miss the mark”. The Chatat Offering took care of chatah – sin. A Sin Offering could only be offered for unintentional sins committed through carelessness, not for intentional, malicious sins, such as murder. For sins like murder, no offering would bring atonement; only the grace of God would suffice. A few special Sin Offerings, like a Sin Offering for the entire community, or for a priest, could not be eaten. But, for the average person’s sin, some of the Chatat was permitted to be eaten by the priests.

The Sin Offering had the built-in lesson of identification and substitution. When the offerer laid his hands upon the head of the animal, the animal took the place of the offerer and became his sin. It became the substitute. The animal took the offerer’s penalty of death, and its life was given in exchange to the offerer. That is the exchange-of-life principle.

The offerer had to kill the animal, but it was the priest’s responsibility to offer the blood. The blood was sprinkled – not burned on the altar. Blood is a symbol of life. When he handled the blood of the sacrifice, the priest was symbolically handling the life of the offerer. The blood of the substitute animal was symbolic of the new life to be given to the Israeli – if he acted in faith to receive it.

Prior to the coming of Messiah Yeshua, the Sin Offering afforded the Jewish people a visual demonstration of the exchange-of-life principle. If the Jewish person appropriated this lesson by faith, and really grasped this principle, he was redeemed; he was saved; his sins were forgiven. The people of Israel could experience salvation and receive atonement. The redeemed person would continue to bring sacrifices for future sins, but it was as one who knew God and knew what salvation meant. There was a remnant of Israelis who understood and appropriated this exchange-of-life principle, but the vast majority went through the motions without grasping the significance of the relationship of the sacrifice to their own sin. In a similar way, many today neither understand nor desire salvation through the death of another Chatat – Messiah Yeshua. What the Lord wanted the Jewish people to learn in the Chatat and the exchange-of-life principle has not changed; rather, it has been enlarged. The object in this exchange is now the Son of God. Messiah Yeshua’s main purpose for coming to Earth was to die as the final Chatat. When a person asks Messiah Yeshua into his or her life, what they are doing is symbolically laying their hands on the head of Yeshua. The person confesses his sins and the Son of God takes away the sinful life of the person. Then He gives the person His life, making the exchange of life complete.

But His life is incomparable to that of anyone else! Because of who Messiah is, His life has an unmatched quality. It is eternal, and so Believers receive a gift that never ends! After concluding their life in this world, they will continue to live forever and ever, as Yeshua does. Since Messiah’s life is one of power and victory, when we receive His life we gain an unmatched power which enables us to live triumphantly and victoriously. This power is available to all who receive His life in the exchange-of-life principle. If you have never done this, why not make Yeshua your Chatat right now? Believe in Him! Identify with Him. Join yourself to Him. Let Him take your sins, and be your Substitute, and He will give you His eternal, victorious life! Then, as needed, continue to symbolically lay your hands on the head of Messiah by regularly confessing your sins to God, and thanking Him for the sacrifice of the Messiah. The Lord will wipe away every sin you have committed!

The Asham: The Guilt Offering: Very similar to the Sin Offering was the Asham – the Guilt Offering. Asham comes from the Hebrew root meaning “to fail in one’s duty” or “to be negligent” or “to become guilty”. A Guilt Offering atones for sins against the Lord’s holy things, like neglecting to pay the tithe, or failing to redeem the first-born son; or sins involving breach of trust against man, like fraud or theft. In Isaiah 53:10, Yeshua is specifically said to be an Asham – an offering to atone for sin against the Lord’s holy things. The Righteous One was guiltless in His relationship to God, and faultless in His relationship to human beings. He died so that we can be forgiven for failing in our duties to God and man. None of us has perfectly fulfilled our religious responsibilities toward God, nor have any of us met all of our obligations to our fellow human beings, but thank God that Messiah’s sacrifice covers them all!

The Olah: The Burnt Offering: The Hebrew word for Burnt Offering is Olah, meaning “going up” or “ascension”. An Olah is completely burnt on the altar; no part of it is eaten by anyone. Because the offering represents complete submission to God’s will, the entire offering is given to God. The Burnt Offering represents dedication to God. Just as the animal is entirely burnt up and consumed and ascends heavenward, so the worshiper offered a sacrifice declaring to God that his life was not his own. Out of gratitude for being forgiven and atoned for, his desire was to be completely consumed in the service of God.

The Burnt Offering finds its fulfillment in the life and death of the Messiah. In every action He undertook, with every word that He spoke, Yeshua was completely dedicated to the will of God. He always did that which pleased His Father. He never sinned. He lived a flawless life, and then gave that life as the final sacrifice for sin. His willingness to lay down His life demonstrates the kind of total dedication spoken of in the Burnt Offering. We, the sons and daughters of God, who have been redeemed, have been bought with a very high price. Our lives are no longer our own. Knowing this, we are to present our lives as living and holy sacrifices, dedicated to God and His service. Such an act of total dedication in the Believer’s life is his spiritual and reasonable service.

The Mincha: The Grain Offering: Mincha refers to an offering from the produce of the ground. The Mincha was made of fine wheat. Grain in the ancient world was the staple of one’s diet. Many of the calories you ate came from grain. Grain was the final product of much labor and was valuable. A farmer first had to break up his ground. Then he sowed the wheat seeds into the ground. Then he waited on God to provide the rains at the proper times. He weeded the soil and later, harvested the crop. Then he separated the grain from the chaff and milled the grain into flour. Finally, he went up to Jerusalem to the Temple and offered his grain to the Lord. A representative piece of the offering was to be burned in the fire of the altar, but the rest was eaten by the priests.

When one brought his Grain Offering, he was offering something that had been produced through diligence and hard labor. The Mincha was an acknowledgment that our jobs, our skills, our strength, our energy, our labors, all come from the Lord. It is He who blesses us with skill and strength, enabling us to work and bring home our daily bread.

When he offered this fine flour, the worshiper poured oil on it. Oil moistened the flour so that it wouldn’t blow away and helped the flour to burn better. Oil also has a symbolic meaning. It almost always symbolizes the presence of God. God needs to be involved in our work! Frankincense was also put on the Grain Offering, and its aroma permeated the air when it was burned. Frankincense was symbolic of the prayers of God’s people. The addition of frankincense tells us that God considered our work to be like a prayer that was acceptable to Him. No Grain Offering was permitted to contain leaven. Leaven, a symbol of sin, should never be placed on the altar. Neither was honey, which was also used in fermentation, and was associated with leaven as a symbol of sin, permitted. Instead of leaven or honey, all Grain Offerings were to contain salt. If any leaven was somehow present, the salt would arrest the leavening action. It would therefore symbolize the nullification of any presence of sin. The salt, which seasoned the sacrifice, symbolized God’s holiness, purity, and the permanence of the principles of sacrifice and covenant between the Lord and His people.

The Mincha pictured the perfection of Messiah’s life and work. No aspect of Messiah’s nature – His love, His holiness, His righteousness – was lacking. He was perfect in every way. He took on the tough jobs. In His work for the Father He took the difficult path of hard labor and of unselfish service. He did all His labors perfectly, in total dedication to His Father. After completing everything, He could say, “It is finished – the great work that God has given Me to do, has been done, and done well!” God’s presence, as symbolized in the oil of the sacrifice, was continually with Yeshua in His life and ministry. Messiah’s life was like frankincense, a pleasant aroma, one continuous pleasing prayer to God. He enjoyed constant unbroken communication with the Father. Every word He spoke, He had first heard the Father speak. Every action He took was perfectly consistent with the will of the Father. His entire life was one beautiful prayer! The absence of leaven in the Mincha symbolizes Messiah’s sinlessness. He is the only man who never sinned. He is truth embodied, righteousness personified.

We too, are to serve the Lord diligently and wholeheartedly. Our labor for the Lord is holy, no matter where we are, rabbi or mother or secretary; carpenter or street cleaner. Every legitimate place of employment is like an altar where a child of God can produce work that is holy and blessed by God. All of us are to serve the Lord all the time! True religion must happen every day of the week: in the work-world, as well as on Shabbat. You are not doing your duty if your work is not dedicated to God – if you don’t see your job as the ministry that God has given you. We must work conscientiously on the job, and be dedicated, and diligent and honest. We must talk to our co-workers about the Kingdom of God when possible, and let our lights shine in the work place. Those who are dishonest in their work, greedy in business, or lazy on the job are not fulfilling the meaning of the Mincha Offering.

The Zebach Sh’lamim: The Peace Offerings: The Hebrew term for the Peace Offerings is Zebach Sh’lamim which is related to the word shalom, meaning “peace” or “wholeness” or “completeness”. A Peace Offering is an offering thanking God for restoring the worshiper to a state of wholeness with Him, for being at peace with Him, for having fellowship with the Creator. All is well between the worshiper and God! A portion of the offering is burned on the altar, a portion is given to the priests, and the rest is eaten by the offerer and his family. Everyone gets a part of this offering, which is eaten and enjoyed. This category of offerings includes Thanksgiving Offerings (“Todah” in Hebrew), Free Will Offerings, and offerings made after the fulfillment of a vow. The Peace Offering is fulfilled in Messiah, who was always in a state of perfect peace with God. He was always in a right relationship with His Father. Then, He died to bring us peace with God, and restore us to a state of well-being with the Almighty.

Conclusion: The Torah contains three covenants (those made with Noah, Abraham, and Moses). Judaism claims to be based on all three. The covenants made with Noah and with Abraham are still in effect, however the covenant that came to Israel through Moses contains many laws, as well as the proper protocol for drawing near to God through the Tabernacle, the Priesthood and the Sacrifices. All of these components (the Laws, Tabernacle, Priesthood and Sacrifices) form a package deal between God and Israel. If one part is violated, then the whole Mosaic Covenant has been violated. Two thousand years ago the Temple (which replaced the Tabernacle) was destroyed and the sacrifices ceased. Judaism was radically (and unilaterally) restructured by the non-Messianic Rabbis, replacing the Temple, the Priests and the Sacrifices with the Synagogue, Rabbis, Prayers, Repentance, and Torah-observance. But it is impossible to truly fulfill the Torah and uphold our part of the covenant without meeting its demands for bringing the Sacrifices God ordained at the Mishkan. Rabbinic Judaism is based on a broken covenant, which will not save us. Instead of this radically reconstituted Judaism, God wanted the Jewish people to enter into New Covenant Judaism, based on the life, death and resurrection and teachings of the Messiah. Furthermore, He wanted us to bring the Gentiles into the New Covenant too!

I’m indebted to Dr. Louis Goldberg (may he always be remembered for his goodness, his scholarship, his love for God and his love for his Jewish people) for much of this message.